For Peter Jimmerson, the war was over — for now. For the past two years he had been in a running battle with some cracker slipping into his servers. This was no simple showboating; the cracker was needling him personally, knew too much about Peter. While there may have been other targets, this scumbag had made his life miserable, laying traps, getting root on his boxes, hiding traces and mocking him at every turn. And while this cracker was using his servers for nefarious deeds, mostly attacking other servers, that seemed only an excuse to keep harassing Peter.
Pete was on the verge of finding out who the cracker was, having traced him back through multiple proxies to an IP address which registered just a few miles away. It never occurred to him to wonder what he would do if he finally identified the cracker; Peter was hardly the threatening thug, and was frankly frightened of guns. He had been a computer geek since he could remember, and was currently near the head of his class in Computer Science. The cracker seemed to know which machines Peter was using at the science lab, along with the two BSD boxes in his apartment.
But Peter’s roommate had insisted he just had to see the project in that other lab in College of Business. Pete knew the grad student lab techs there had been pirating the latest tablet software from Microsoft, selling it dirt cheap on campus and making quite a bundle. Normally he would not have come within line of sight on the building itself, but his buddy had gotten into serious hardware modifications and asked Pete for help prototyping it. So Pete was caught standing in the lab when campus security led the Feds in with guns drawn.
Of course the lab techs claimed Pete was in on it, along with his buddy. Fingering others for whom there was no evidence was the only way to get any credit for cooperating. Pete was never going to get his case heard; the War on Terror saw to that. Officially classed now as a terrorist, thanks to corporate lobbying, most legal protections were now a faded memory. His head was spinning during the first two weeks, trying to adjust to the new reality. Things he once knew as facts in the cloud of meat space data in the back of his mind were now front and center. He hated the distraction.
The only consolation was his servers were disconnected from the Net at the moment he was taken into custody. The burning necessity of finding the quickest exit showed him his real priorities. Catching the cracker was paramount. That meant qualifying for minimum security. The only path required he swallow his pride on the purity of his BSD boxes, and consider what previously was anathema — working with the Bread OS Project. He regarded Brandon Breeze as a corporate whore. While BSD licensing was wide open, he felt it was morally all but stealing code for a project which violated every principle of Open Source and BSD freedom.
But dealing with Breeze’s filthy project was better than staying in max security. His bunk mate was still bruised from a rape and beating by some thug and his gang on the next floor down. Peter was small enough and young enough to be both a perfect target for their abuse, but also able to slip out of every confrontation so far. Sooner or later, they would catch him. His cellmate was really unlucky, still waiting for a slot in the general labor pool for the prison industries. In this status, complaint about abuse from fellow inmates seldom brought relief.
Aside from having good employment prospects, the other necessity for moving to low security was dropping a dime on some associate or identifying some other terrorist. Having slept not a wink with the moaning from his cellmate, Pete had contemplated all this from every angle, and there was no other exit. So as the lights came up slowly in hall, the first guard he spotted making the cell check was the worst of the lot. Well, so much for poetic justice; this one was going to win the credit for another willing volunteer in one of the certified prison industry units. Guards got a bonus for inmates whom they persuaded to cooperate. The Bread Project was the only thing on the list he knew how to do. And the thug on the lower floor was easily a terrorist by any definition.
“Guard! I need to see the counselor, before breakfast if possible.” The counselors for the prison corporation were essentially recruiters for the very profitably prison industries, and worked long days.
It had occurred to Pete the guard was likely letting certain things happen to pressure him into taking just this step. Much as he despised this filth in guard’s uniform, he hated someone else even more. With a sneer the guard asked, “So Petey Boy! What’s up?”
Pete wore his best poker face, because all the passion and vitriol was aimed at some other target. “Two items: I want to sign on for an industry project and identify a terrorist.”
The guard stared at Pete for a few seconds, the smirk growing just a bit. “You’ve made me very happy, Petey Boy.” With that, the guard turned to carry out a new priority task.